UKIAH, 5/16/2017 — Workers, staff, and tribal members of the Coyote Valley band of Pomo Indians filled about half the supervisors chambers at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting to show support for plans to replace the current full-sized Coyote Valley Casino and build a hotel. The tribe and a supervisors’ ad hoc committee are in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to build a new, slightly larger casino in Redwood Valley to replace the current casino, which is approximately 22,000 square feet. During the public comment period, the tribal chair, Michael Hunter, and the tribe’s attorney, Little Fawn Boland, urged the board to approve the MOU, which includes mitigations for the projected impacts that gaming will have off the reservation. Boland said Wednesday that the board had agreed to avoid arbitration by not imposing a transient occupancy tax on the hotel.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Boland spoke to the board first, urging the supervisors to accept the tribe’s proposed mitigations and not impose the tax on the proposed hotel. The tax, she explained on Wednesday, would be illegal because under the California Compact, which regulates Indian gaming, tribes are only required to mitigate the off-reservation impacts of gaming. The 101-room hotel would be separate from the proposed 30,000 square foot casino, which would include a restaurant that could seat 125 patrons. Both businesses would be located across the street from the Coyote Valley gas station, mini-mart, and 10,000 square foot smoke-free casino. This smaller casino is in addition to the larger business slated for expansion.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Boland alluded to the possibility of arbitration if the board insisted on the transient occupancy tax. “If we proceed to arbitration, we believe strongly that we are going to prevail, and we will seek a zero dollar value mitigation payment in that case,” she said. She encouraged the supervisors to “Vote against arbitrating this and move forward as a team.” In a later interview, Boland said the board had agreed not to arbitrate and she believed the county and the tribe could work together.
Following her introduction on Tuesday, Hunter delivered a speech that was equal parts history lesson and details about proposed mitigations for the new casino. “I ask you to be on the right side of history,” he said, at times teary-eyed as he spoke about the theft of resources and land from Native American people. He assured the board that the tribe is working on water and sewer systems that will not have an impact on the Redwood Valley water district.
The tribe has also agreed to pay about $65,000 annually to staff a fire department employee. The tribe currently has a fully-staffed police force, but if that police force ever disbands, Boland said the tribe has also agreed to contribute financially to the sheriff’s department for law enforcement. Other mitigations, such as a proposed $60,000 for unforeseen circumstances and $700,000 for a left-turn lane off of North State Street, are still being negotiated.
In a brief interview after his presentation to the board, Hunter, asked if he planned to run for the First District supervisor’s seat at the end of Carre Brown’s term, said of Brown that “She is a warrior for this county and our district. I would not want to in any way make her think that she would be better off not being on the board of supervisors...if she decides to retire, we are considering it for sure.”
Brown stated at the beginning of her term in January that she does not plan to run again at the end of her term in 2021.
Sarah Reith [email protected]